Languages

Norn

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Introduction

Norn is an extinct North Germanic, language that was spoken on Shetland and Orkney, off the north coast of mainland Scotland, and in Caithness. After the islands were returned to Scotland by Norway in the 15th century, its use was discouraged by the Scottish government and the Church of Scotland (the national church), and it was gradually replaced by Scots over time.

It is not known exactly when Norn became extinct. The last reports of Norn speakers are claimed to be from the early 19th century, but it is more likely that the language died out sometime during the 18th century at the latest. Fragments of the language and loan-words adopted into the local Lowland Scots and Scottish English survived the death of the main language and remain to this day.

Dialects of Norse had also been spoken on mainland Scotland -- for example, in Caithness -- but here they became extinct many centuries before Norn died on Orkney and Shetland. Hence, some scholars also speak about "Caithness Norn", but others avoid this. Even less is known about "Caithness Norn" than about Orkney and Shetland Norn. Relatively little written Norn has survived. What remains includes a version of the Lord's Prayer, ballads and official documents such as diplomas as well as several runic inscriptions.

The Verb

The two main conjugations of verbs in present and past tense were also present and like all other North Germanic languages.

Sample verb: vara

Present Past
yach  yaar  vaar
du  yaar  vaar
han  yaar  vaar
vi  vara  ?
vara  ?
di  vara  ?

References

  • Barnes, Michael P.. The Norn language of Orkney and Shetland. The Shetland Times Ltd.. Lerwick. 1998.

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